Sunday, 26 July 2015

Review: This Song Will Save Your Life by Leila Sales

Title: This Song Will Save Your Life
Author: Leila Sales 
Publisher: Macmillan Children's Books
Publication Date: October 2013
Genre: Contemporary//Young Adult
Rating: ★★★★★
Summary: 
All her life, Elise Dembowski has been an outsider. Starting a new school, she dreams of fitting in at last – but when her best attempts at popularity fail, she almost gives up. Then she stumbles upon a secret warehouse party. There, at night, Elise can be a different person, making real friends, falling in love for the first time, and finding her true passion – DJ’ing.
But when her real and secret lives collide, she has to make a decision once and for all: just who is the real Elise?

Trigger warning - This novel also deals with some topics such as depression, suicide (attempt and thoughts) and low self-esteem issues.

In a nutshell: This was so good it gave me a book hangover.  Character development, a book with music in its spine, friendship, identity, and self-acceptance

I deserve to be here, No one can take my dance space away from me, I don’t care if anyone thinks I look stupid.

Elise stumbles upon an underground disco, named Start, which changes her life and throws her into learning curve. Elise is a character who grows. She grows throughout the novel as a character and she grows on the reader. In other words, the character development in this novel is strong. At the beginning of the novel, Elise is in a bad place- she’s bullied,  socially excluded, and  after her attempt to become popular fails, she becomes quite depressed - I felt a lot of sympathy for her. 

Often, when someone is in a bad place, they can become bitter and consequently seem a bit stuck up and annoying.  Elise comes across as a little annoying but she learns and evolves throughout the novel.  It’s quite understandable that she has become a little bitter, as no matter what she does she doesn’t get to where she wants to be. She’s obsessed with popularity and it’s quite understandable, considering her lack of friends and the relentless bullying she experiences; however her obsession with popularity is more of a desire for friends rather than popularity, as Elise later realises. Elise learns to accept herself, become more accepting of others and finds her passion for DJ’ing.  Ultimately, over the course of the novel she learns, evolves and grows as a character, a friend and a human being. She undergoes a journey of self-discovery and it’s beautiful to read. 

Identity, friendship and acceptance are overarching themes in this novel, which I really enjoyed and think a lot of people can relate to. Sales drives home a really uplifting messages about what it means to be yourself and self-acceptance- that how others label you, and who you are, are two very different things. Elise’s night life of DJ’ing and the new friendships she forms contrasts with the misery of her school life and she gradually has to come to terms with her self and accept that she is not defined by the labels others assign to her. 

One character who perfectly encapsulated this was Vicky. Vicky who made up the rule, ‘I deserve to be here, No one can take my dance space away from me, I don’t care if anyone thinks I look stupid,’ and sees herself as a rockstar despite her career as a musician not quite reaching that level yet. Vicky is a character unashamedly herself and such a positive influence in Elise’s life. Believing in yourself and your abilities is another positive statement Sales explores and a sentiment that is important for young people (and everyone else) to hear.

Sales also explores friendship and what it means to be a friend. Elise gradually learns that you don’t have to have everything single thing in common with someone to be friends, you just have to have something; whether that something is attending secret warehouse parties or just being unpopular and average together.  Elise makes real connections and friendships which are so heart-warming and exciting to read about.  Another definite stand out point of this novel was the romance. The romantic elements were very realistic, complex and a bit messy. For a young adult novel, I really appreciated this quite refreshing take on romantic relationships and their complexities.

Music is a really big part of this novel and I cannot express how much I loved this. If you’re a huge music fan this is definitely a novel to read.  There’s even a suggested listening list at the end of the novel.  Music is really appreciated throughout and it binds the story.   Start, and music bring people together for different reasons. Whether like Elise, they use music to escape their miserable life, or like Vicky, they feel truly themselves on the dance floor, everyone in this novel is brought together, in some way or another by music. Elise finds her passion for DJ’ing and even her Dad is a part time musician who works in a record store.  Music is everything, and music does save and transform Elise’s life.  

Sales writing is very simple but manages to convey a lot of emotion and the voice of Elise distinctively. For a novel that deals with some very heavy and serious topics, the simplicity of the writing and Elise’s voice allows these topics to be explored in an approachable and engaging way. 

Overall, the overarching message that I took from this novel – that you are not defined by the labels others assign you is such an important one and one that I think Sales expresses wonderfully. Elise is a character who grows and evolves this novel and delivers some great messages about hope, identity and friendship. This novel made me feel all warm and fuzzy inside and left me with a book hangover. If you want a contemporary young adult novel with some uplifting sentiments and musical inclination, definitely pick this up! 

And finally, I will leave you with this quote:
‘You think it's so easy to change yourself. You think it's so easy, but it's not. True, things don't stay the same forever: couches are replaced, boys leave, you discover a song, your body becomes forever scarred. And with each of these moments you change and change again, your true self spinning, shifting positions-- but always at last it returns to you, like a dancer on the floor. Because throughout it all, you are still, always, you: beautiful and bruised, known and unknowable. And isn't that - just you – enough’ 

Monday, 6 July 2015

Review: Rat Queens Vol 2: The Far Reaching Tentacles of N'rygoth by Kurtis J. Weibe

  
Title: Rat Queens Vol 2: The Far Reaching Tentacles of N'rygoth
Author: Kurtis J. Wiebe.
Publisher: Image Comics
Publication Date: 6th May 2015
Genre: Comics/Fantasy
Rating: ★★★★

Summary: 


This booze-soaked second volume of RAT QUEENS reveals a growing menace within the very walls of Palisade. And while Dee may have run from her past, the bloated, blood-feasting sky god N’rygoth never really lets his children stray too far.







Wow, what a follow up! Rat Queens Volume 2, collects issues 6-10 and picks up light-heartedly after the celebratory party thrown in issue 5. Following a blast from the past and the disappearance another character, the Rat Queens undertake another epic adventure full of sass, action, mushrooms, and the almost end of the world!   

So much more is revealed about the characters in this volume. The inclusion of flashbacks and back stories give us a glimpse at Hannah, Violet, and Dee’s lives before joining the Rat Queens. The characters are even more developed and distinct which makes them all the more enjoyable to read about. Despite seeming a little disjointed and confusing at first, the flashbacks are cleverly woven into the story and add more depth and intrigue to the characters. Dee however, is still shrouded with some mystery, although the exploration of her faith (or lack of) was done well in this volume.

Violet’s back story was particularly interesting. One detail I loved was Violet adding a dash of eye liner after suiting up in her armour. We find out more about Violet’s family and her relationship with them. It is both very amusing and captured in a way that is very reflective of real and genuine family relationships anddynamics. Another aspect I really appreciated was Violet’s appropriate slaying whilst dealing with inappropriate comments from creepy old men (slay, violet, slay!)

Plot wise, the story is quite formulaic and typical of questing style plots. However, multiple character’s personal histories and interests are entwined with the main plot and villain’s scheme, in an interesting way. The formulaic nature of the plot does not detract from the overall enjoyment of this volume, as the Rat Queens retain their sassy sense of humour and distinctive personalities. It does not take long to re-familiarise yourself with the characters and they really are the force which makes this series so entertaining to read. Additionally, the continuing ‘Gary’ jokes never fail to amuse.

The art style has changed slightly with the switching of the illustrator, but it still retains a similar style. The lines and especially the noses are a lot sharper and pointier than before but overall, it is a small change and does not detract from the enjoyment of the story. 

I really enjoyed this volume. The characters are diverse, complex and all round awesome which really makes reading Rat Queens so enjoyable. Rat Queens combines complex female characters with a brilliant sense of friendship and humour in an action packed fantasy world. This second volume definitely lives up to expectations.  


Sunday, 5 July 2015

Most Anticipated Video Games!


I caught the E3 fever.

As well as being a huge book nerd, I'm also a huge video game nerd. I first got into video games at around eight or nine, my Dad bought a PlayStation 2 and that's pretty much where my gaming journey started. My favourite games are story based ones, as they allow you to become an active participant in the story and I think that's pretty amazing. In general I find that there is not a lot of diversity in video games, especially in mainstream video games. This year however a lot of the big developers are (finally) releasing more female led games which is amazing and exciting! Here are some of the games I'm most anticipating! 

THIS GAME SOUNDS AMAZING. Set in a post-apocalyptic world, where nature has taken over, few tribes of humans are left, and the world is dominated by robot animals. Robot animals. Robot Dinosaurs. The concept for the game is supposed to explore the 'juxtaposition between the danger and beauty of the world' and the 'concept of humanity not being "at the top of the life list" which sounds like it will make an really awesome game. The protagonist is female and seems awesome. I am so excited and this is definitely the game I am looking forward to most. Just watch the trailer and prepare to be amazed. 

I love the Walking Dead TV show, and I love the Telltale game series, although I have yet to read the comic books (definitely need to get on that!) I've played the first two games and they were absolutely amazing. They're heart wrenching and are really interactive as the decisions you make in the game will impact the outcome of the story! It's so much fun to play and is graphically reminiscent of comic book art. Michonne is undoubtedly one of my favourite characters in the TV series, so I am super excited to have a mini series dedicated to her! I can tell it's going to be amazing! 

Where do I start with Lara Croft? She raids tombs and ventures across the globe in search of ancient artefacts. I first played Lara Croft as a child, on my PlayStation 2 and I loved it so much. I haven't played all the games in Tomb Raider franchise but I've played enough to know that I love Lara Croft. I was super excited to play the 2013 reboot, which follows Lara as a young archaeologist and the experience which made her the illusive Tomb Raider. Rise of the Tomb Raider follows on from this and I am super excited! Also, the graphics have come so far with this series, see this image for reference.

Uncharted is one of my favourite series. I actually played Uncharted 3 first (out of order) because it came in a playstation bundle, and accidentally fell in love with the series. Since then I've played the first and second games in the series and loved them all. The series follows adventurer Nathan Drake and his travels across the globe to track down ancient and powerful artefacts (kind of like a male Lara Croft.) There are usually some twists and turns and these games are always super fun to play. On top of that, the characters are funny and the relationship between Nathan and his mentor Sully is great. This is going to be the last game in the series and that makes me really sad because this series is just so much fun. 

Hellblade

This game sounds awesome. The protagonist looks amazing and the game follows her into hell as she battles the manifestations of her mind. The game is based on a Celtic myth and sounds really interesting and unique! I found this game through The Mary Sue, which linked a really cool video about the development of the character and how they created a female character, despite people's claims that female led games don't sell well. YES. (take note Ubisoft) 

Despite Ubisoft's stupid comments on how women are apparently hard to animate. I still love the Assassins Creed series.They seem to have made some improvements with Syndicate though, as the story follows a brother and sister and both are the playable, but I'm sure that the story is more focused on the brother (don't even get me started on the placement in the photo.) The Victorian London setting and the focus on the criminal underworld are some redeeming features though, especially as I've been reading a lot of Charles Dickens (who makes an appearance in the game!!!!)
I have to admit, I never played a Fallout game before. I've heard so many rave reviews about Fallout though, and I think this may be the one I get into! Fallout takes place in a post apocalypse world, destroyed by nuclear forces. Fallout is an open world game but the storyline follows the playable character, who after locking their self and their family into a capsule before the nuclear disaster, wakes up 200 years later as the only survivor. I'm sure I can play this without having played the previous games, as the story is separate to the previous games. 


The E3 announcement for this game really solidified my excitement for this game. The creative developer looked so nervous, but you could tell he was really passionate and really cares about what the game. It's my favourite thing when you can see someone is really passionate about something, it makes me want to feel passionate about it too. He even brought the real life Yarny to the conference and explained how he came up with the idea for the game. This game looks so beautiful and chill, it seems like exactly the game to play when you really need to unwind and relax. 

Everybody's Gone to the Rapture


This game looks really beautiful, despite the ominous title. I'm not entirely sure what it's about (haha) but I know it's a first person game, set in an abandoned or empty English Village. The whole English Village element is really intriguing because I haven't played many games set in England, let alone in English villages. Graphically, this game looks amazing and seems to really capture the English Countryside! 

Notable mention: Mirror's Edge Catalyst - This is the second game in the series and I have yet to play the first one. It's an open world game, set in a futuristic city which main protagonist parkours around. Also the protagonist has been praised for being realistic and a woman of colour. Double win!


Do you guys play video games? Are you excited about any of these games? If not, which games are you excited for!? Leave your thoughts below!

Friday, 3 July 2015

Review - What Happened To Goodbye by Sarah Dessen

Title: What Happened To Goodbye
Author: Sarah Dessen
Publisher: Puffin Books
Publication Date: 1st June 2011
Genre: Contemporary/ Young Adult
Rating: ★★★★

Summary: 
Mclean never lets herself get too attached.
After the scandal of her mother's affair, Mclean and her dad chose life on the road. 
But since losing her family and home, Mclean has lost herself too; she's been Eliza, then Lizbet, then Beth - changing her name as often as she changes towns.


Goodreads//Book Depository

All those clean, fresh starts had made me forget what it was like, until now, to be messy and honest and out of control’

In a nutshell: A dash of romance, family issues, and coming to terms with yourself and your past all bundled together in an adorable book.  

As a young teen, the only books I read were by Sarah Dessen. This was the first Sarah Dessen book I’ve read for years and the familiarity of Dessen's writing style made me all nostalgic! The book follows Mclean who moves from town to town with her father, inventing a new identity in each one, following the messy divorce of her parents. She has to come to terms with her past and be real with herself as well as with her new found pals.

I’ve always found Sarah Dessen’s writing style to be easy to read and enticing, the kind that you start reading and before you know it, hours have passed.  This was certainly the case with this book; I found the storyline to be quite realistic, some scenes were a little exaggerated but overall, it tackles some realistic problems such as the impact of Mclean’s parents’ divorce, which seems a relatable topic for many people. Mclean’s relationship with her parents is also a large part of this book, which is refreshing to see.

The main characters in many of Dessen’s books are usually quite passive and almost plain, in attempt to let the reader identify with the character more easily. I once watched a panel of Dessen and, from what I gathered, this is what she implied. This was largely the case for Mclean. Many of the secondary characters had distinct and specific quirks and facets to their personalities, which were slightly lacking in Mclean. However, Mclean is not a completely passive character. she does stand up to her slightly (might be an understatement) overbearing and mother and is very independent.

My favourite character in this book was undoubtedly Deb. I loved Deb’s character so much. She really encapsulated the idea that appearances can be deceiving, and is such a lovable character. In fact, I might even go as far as saying that Deb is my favourite thing about this book. She’s a really misunderstood and multifaceted character, who is unashamedly herself and genuine. I wanted more of Deb in the book!  

Dessen lightly touches on issues of acceptance and identity in a casual and palatable manner; it’s not too deep but it’s refreshing and positive nonetheless. I found this quite a character driven book. What Happened to Goodbye documents Mclean coming to terms with her identity, past, and the connections she makes in Lakeview. The restaurant setting was also really fun to read and felt like a throwback to Keeping the Moon (which I loved btw.) The romance elements in this book were quite low key but still cute and adorable and Dave is a really different and interesting character. 

One thing I found a bit bothersome in this book was the stereotyping of people with tattoos and piercings as delinquents. I think that generally, there are a lot of stereotypes surrounding tattoos and body modifications and they are very often portrayed in a very negative light. Bit of a personal issue, but as a huge fan of tattoos, it bothered me to see these negative stereotypes included, albeit not that often. But still, it bothered me.

Overall, What Happened to Goodbye was an enjoyable read and hit me with a wave of nostalgia. It’s a solid Dessen book and deals with family issues, coming to terms with your identity and past whilst bundling in a cute romance and friendships. I loved the familiarity of Dessen’s writing and Dessen manages to weave different elements of young people’s lives into Mclean’s story.  


Thursday, 2 July 2015

June Wrap Up!



Hi guys. This month I read some books, wasted a lot of time on the internet, saw a band, and spent a lot of time looking after tortoises. I kind of want to name my wrap ups something other than 'wrap ups' but I'm struggling to think of something cute and unique. Anyway, here are the highlights of my month!

Books 


Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens 3/5
Despite all the musicals and adaptations I was quite unfamiliar with the story of Oliver, before starting this book. I had assumed the story was about an orphan child who joins a sort of street urchin gang and boy, was I wrong. The story is so much darker than I was anticipating. Dickens pits the evils of the criminal underworld in contrast to the innocence goodness of Oliver. Ironically, the story seemed focused on all the characters surrounding Oliver, rather than Oliver himself; in fact Oliver was a boring character. There was quite an anti-Semitic vibe going on with all the references to 'The Jew.' It was quite bothersome, despite Dickens rebuttal of such claims.

What Happened to Goodbye by Sarah Dessen 4/5
As a young teen, the only books I read were by Sarah Dessen. In light of her latest release, Saint Anything, I pondered over reading my few unread Dessen books. Before I knew it, I'd bought and read What Happened to Goodbye. The story follows Mclean who moves from town to town with her father, inventing a new identity in each one, following the messy divorce of her parents. She has to come to terms with her past and be real with herself as well as her new found pals. The familiarity of Dessen's writing style made me all nostalgic and I really enjoyed reading this! There is a good dash of romance, family issues, and coming to terms with yourself and your past all bundled together in this adorable book.

Rat Queens Volume 2: The Far Reaching Tentacles of N'Rygoth by Kurtis J. Wiebe  4/5
I read the first volume a couple of months ago and this second volume is such a great follow up! There's more sass, more sorcery, more rat queens slaying and being awesome! The characters in this series are my favourite thing and are really what makes reading Rat Queens so enjoyable - they are all diverse, complex and awesome. The illustrator changed and so the art style is a little different, but it's still retains a similar style and doesn't detract from the reading experience. This series combines complex female characters with a brilliant sense of friendship and an action packed fantasy world, and definitely impresses!

Music



I've been a huge fan of Young Guns for years, and I finally got to see them live this month!! They released their new album, Ones and Zeros this month and it's pretty much all I've been listening to. #onrepeat  Go check them out, my favourites are Speaking in Tongues, Daylight, Rising Up and Lullaby.


Everything Else

I'm an avid Buffy fan, and spent most of my childhood obsessed, like really obsessed. I collected action figures, trading cards, mugs, magazines, flannels even (everything pretty much) This obsession has slowed down a bit in recent years, but it's still smouldering away deep inside. Hence, the poster. When my sister told me she was getting one, I knew, I had to get one too. It's the same poster that Buffy and Willow have on the door of their college dormitory. Like I said, obsessed. Also I love chocolate and pretty things, so this is double perfection.

The poster in all it's glory!

That's all I've got for today! 

How has your June been? 
Read any of these books? Listened to Young Guns? Are you a Buffy fan too!? Leave your thoughts below!!